Malawi (part 1)

31 08 2009

First though; I have put a selection of Kili photos on Flickr – to see them all you would have to hunt me down on Facebook!

I have put off writing these posts for a month now, which probably means it is all the more important that I do write about my experiences and reflect on them as part of the reason I have not written them up is because it was such a different experience to last year and for me, although not for the village, not entirely a positive one at first.

Clare and I left Edinburgh on Thurs 2nd July at 6.00am and I had stayed up all night hoping to sleep on the various flights which of course meant I did not.  Eventually got about 3 hours early morning Fri 3rd July but this lack of sleep may have been part of the reason for me finding my first few days in the village very emotional.

Clare and I also had a certain amount of stress from the moment we landed with a non-existent hotel transfer taxi and a hard time sorting out money and sim cards in Lilongwe in the morning.  This was made up for by finding the Malawi school atlases that despite a brother working in a bookshop we had been unable to lay out hands on from the UK and we knew they would be delighted with these.  I had also brought 6 atlases out from Waterstones so I ended up being laden down with them!

We had organised a taxi to take us from Lilongwe out to our villages, with me being dropped off first.  Lameck, the boy who ran with me last year was meeting us in the trading centre 10km away as I was not sure I could direct the taxi driver to my village from there.

As the taxi bumped its way down into Gwengwe village kids came running out, shouting, singing and following the car.  When I arrived at the house and got out of the car there were maybe about 30 kids there and they followed me into the compound.  Within about 20 mins (and I know because I counted) there were 100 odd children just sitting watching me!  They sat there watching me sitting on the step from about 4pm – 6pm, just so excited that I was there and unwilling to leave even when I was told to go in and eat or to go and bathe. 

Lameck tried to get them to ask me questions and the first one was ‘when are you going to run with us’ which was lovely that they were looking forward to doing that so much.  At 5pm, it getting dark and having had three hours sleep in the last 3 days I said ‘tomorrow.  There was then a second comment made saying I was much fatter than last year.  Now, that’s true and probably particularly obvious to them since they had not seen me inbetween but is not exactly something you want to be told, even though I well know!  It was the first of about 4 times I was told that but I am pretty sure they meant it as a compliment.

I really struggled emotionally though as it was getting darkish at 5pm and it was cold once it got dark and yet they sat there with the one t-shirt on and just shorts, often with rips and holes in them.  You could see them shivering, hear their teeth chattering and see them trying to huddle up or tuck their arms in their t-shirts.  I found it very difficult to deal with this and had to turn away a couple of times in case they saw me upset.  I was not expecting this as last year I managed to deal with this and not get upset in front of them but I was exhausting myself right from the first day trying not to get upset in front of them.

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